IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

Carnivorous plants

8th October, 2020 Ecology
  • Nepenthes, Venus flytraps, Droseras (sundews), Utricularias (bladderworts), Pinguiculas (Butterworts) and Sarracenias (American Pitcher Plant) are the varieties of carnivorous plants that are commonly grown and sold in India.
  • Nepenthes “does not kill” the lower surface of the lid contains a sweet sugary laxative which is tempting for tree shrews.
  • It causes them to involuntarily poop inside the pitcher.
  • This poop is high in nitrogen, thus providing the nutrient for the plant.

Cultivation skills

  • Carnivorous plants are grown from seeds, from cuttings and by tissue culture.
  • Seeds or plants are imported from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Americas and Europe. The plants require good sunlight and the soil should be nutrient free.
  • Coco peat and sphagnum moss are preferred options.
  • No fertiliser should be applied.
  • Water used should be devoid of dissolved solids or minerals.
  • Experienced growers even create new varieties by crossing breeds through manual pollination, but it is not easy.

Venus flytrap

  • “Female plants are few when compared to their male counterparts and one can only differentiate them when they flower.

Landmark discovery

  • In 2013, a group of scientists of Phytochemistry and Phytopharmacology division of the Jawaharlal Nehru Tropical Botanic Garden and Research Institute in Thiruvananthapuram (JNTBGRI) discovered blue fluorescence emissions in the traps of Nepenthes, Sarracenia and Venus flytrap to lure the prey.
  • The glow is invisible to human eye.

It’s a trap!

  • Since they thrive in less fertile, marshy lands, carnivorous plants have adapted themselves to gain nutrients by capturing and digesting their prey.
  • Pitcher plants have pitfall traps, while sundews capture prey with beads of sticky glue.
  • Venus flytrap has hinged leaves like tiny jaws that snap shut around its prey.
  • Bladderworts, primarily aquatic, have underwater traps and use a vacuum action to suck insects into the trap.

Survival threat

  • Of the 170-plus Nepenthes varieties in the world, India is home to only one Nepenthes species, Nepenthes Khasiana, found in Khasi hills in Meghalaya and some parts of Assam.
  • However, it is an endangered plant.
  • 99% of carnivorous plants fall into endangered category.
  • Some have gone extinct because their beauty and trapping mechanisms have led to large scale poaching.
  • Shrinking habitats, due to human intervention, also destroy them.
  • It is best to start with growing Nepenthes Ventrata, which can survive in any climatic conditions. Utricularia is the most common variety available in India, with over 20 types of them.
  • The International Carnivorous Plant Society, set up in 1972, is a non-profit organisation comprising horticulturists, conservationists, scientists and educators from around the world to share knowledge and information about carnivorous plants.
  • Seeds of some varieties take at least a month or two to sprout.
  • Nepenthes and Sarracenia take two or three years to flower. Nepenthes Rajah found in Malaysian forests is considered to have the largest pitcher, which is 41 cm high and 20 cm wide, big enough to hold six litres of water.